Just decided on Sitecore? Stop and do these 8 crucial steps first!

You evaluated multiple CMS systems and decided to use Sitecore? Great choice! Now the work begins for a successful project. There are decisions made now that will impact the project, your costs, and your ultimate success.

As a longtime Platinum Sitecore partner, The Reference, has completed many different strategy engagements. We understand how Sitecore works, the licensing model, and how it can best fit into your business. Our strategy starts at the very beginning of the process to ensure the highest level of success. Read on to learn some of the most important decisions required, and how to tackle them.

1. Understanding licensing costs

Sitecore has two different licensing models: standard per server and consumption based. I will not go into licensing details here but describe the options on a high-level.

Per server licensing

This is a standard licensing model where you pay for the number of servers that are in use. If you want more capacity, you will need to license additional servers. As a result, with per server licensing we recommend a minimum of a 3-server license. 3 servers provide a content editing server and 2 content delivery servers that can be load balanced. Trust us, it is very important.

Consumption licensing

The consumption license charges based on the amount of traffic of your website (a great fit for B2B companies). This option provides lots of flexibility. Consumption licensing enables your business to scale as necessary.

Neither license model affects the decision for your infrastructure in point 2. The licensing decision considers your business needs, which will drive the infrastructure. The license cost represents a large part of your budget, so plan accordingly. Failure to secure enough budget can create problems for the rest of the project. It may increase the cost of implementation, length of deployments or degrade performance.

2. Plan your infrastructure

The Reference designs Sitecore infrastructure for many of our clients. Create, together with your Sitecore partner, an infrastructure consideration list. The list should include traffic, uptime redundancy and other details. Based on the information in the list, create the infrastructure requirements. For example, high traffic sites should consider adding content delivery servers.

As mentioned in point 1, the infrastructure affects the licensing. For robust applications, consider a consumption license. You may be able to save money by reducing your infrastructure. However, understand the non-monetary costs of that decision. For example, longer downtimes or less redundancy. This plan will guide decisions on deployment, failover, load-balancing and other infrastructure strategies.

3. To multi-site or not

We have a strong opinion on this based on many projects. For us, this is no longer a question, because your Sitecore solution should always be a multi-site solution. Why multi-site? First, it fosters adherence to best practices. You must consider content relationships and consumption. You must create a component library. These are all best practices.

Second, it is common to start with a single website and expand. It is much easier and cheaper to add a new website if your Sitecore solution is setup correctly. Period. The sites may be short-lived marketing campaigns, new regions or an acquisition. Failure to start with a multi-site solution in Sitecore will increase your costs in the long run.

4. Determine which features you will use

This sounds simple enough. Are you going to use the marketing features of the Sitecore CMS and the experience database (you really should be)? What about Solr for search? These decisions combined with your infrastructure will drive other considerations for your business. Engage an experienced Sitecore partner to understand the impact each will have.

Determining the features upfront will make sure that your budget is sufficient for the desired functionality. For example, using Solr for search needs a server, while using Coveo instead incurs more licensing.

5. Create a Sitecore strategy

Everything discussed in this article is part of your Sitecore strategy. However, the strategy goes deeper:

  • How you will roll out the project.
  • Do you require Sitecore training?
  • Who is going to support the Sitecore CMS once live?

A Sitecore strategy is a comprehensive task that creates a roadmap for you to follow. It helps to provide feedback of the process and ensure, at each stage, that you are on a path to success.

6. Plan your architecture

Your solution architecture can be a complex task. An experienced partner understands this. Sitecore provides a set of best practices for solution architecture. The Reference recommends following the Sitecore Helix principles and architecture. By following standards and best practices, it enables your team to understand and read about the architecture. Consistency is a big benefit. Experienced Sitecore partners typically have tweaks for efficiency, but overall should follow the Helix principles.

7. Create trackable goals

This may seem like common sense for a project, but far too often is something that is overlooked. Define, upfront, what success looks like. Success can represent different things to different organizations. For example, it may be a success to launch the new website on Sitecore as a foundation.

Creating goals allows you to understand if the finished product meets your needs. Does the solution meet your goals for maintainability, performance and other success factors? Your Sitecore strategy should include these goals as milestones throughout the process. Tracking goals will help you to understand if you are meeting your requirements early and often.

8. Validate your budget

The dreaded budget. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to admit it even exists. Do not fall into this trap. Have a budget and express your budget. Failure to do so results in changes, increased timelines and many nasty surprises.

You want to be successful, right? The budget is the entire reason to have a strategy. It keeps your project in perspective. Everything you desire is more than the budget you have? The strategy can help determine what can be cut without sacrificing success and long-term goals.

A quick example: currently you have two websites maintained in different CMS systems. Never happens, right? You want to bring the sites into one solution. You need enough hardware to make this happen.

Knowing the constraints and need for growth, a recommendation would be a consumption license. We always use multi-site solutions, but we only bring in one site to start to save costs. We do not build out the infrastructure until necessary (consumption makes it much easier to scale). We show the value of the solution and secure budget for the following year for the next site.

Alternatively, you save costs by going with a single per server license. Multi-site is cut to save costs. Later, you decide to bring in the other site and increase the hardware to support it. Worst-case scenario, most of the solution needs to be rewritten for the second site. Changes to one site heavily impacts the other. You are negotiating additional per server licenses. Your costs are out of control and things take too long to launch. Best case, some rework is done, and timelines are extended.

In summary, create a Sitecore strategy before your project begins. Use the 8 points above to start. Create your goals and success criteria early. Be honest with yourself and partners about what is possible within your budget. Want more insights? Sign up for our newsletter.

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